DiversityNursing Blog

Life With a TBI: March Is National Brain Injury Awareness Month

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Mar 02, 2015 @ 01:42 PM

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I find it strangely interesting that this time last year, as I was enduring the beginning of my life with a TBI, I had no idea that March was National Brain Injury Awareness Month. This year I feel compelled to shout it from the rooftops (or the computer screen)! Over the next few weeks, I intend to share with you stories and journeys of those living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or caring for a loved one who is recovering from one. My hope is to educate those who aren't familiar with TBI, and to help other TBI-ers understand that they are not alone, and that their symptoms are not just "in their head" (pun intended). 

Let me start by offering you some statistics on TBI from BrainTrauma.org:

    • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability in children and adults from ages 1 to 44.

 

    • Brain injuries are most often caused by motor vehicle crashes, sports injuries, or simple falls on the playground, at work or in the home.

 

 

    • Every year, approximately 52,000 deaths occur from traumatic brain injury.

 

 

    • An estimated 1.5 million head injuries occur every year in the United States emergency rooms. 

 

 

    • An estimated 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related TBIs occur each year.

 

 

    • At least 5.3 million Americans, 2 percent of the U.S. population, currently live with disabilities resulting from TBI.

 

 

    • Moderate & severe head injury (respectively) is associated with a 2.3 and 4.5 times increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

 

 

    • Males are about twice as likely as females to experience a TBI.

 

 

    • Exposures to blasts are a leading cause of TBI among active duty military personnel in war zones.

 

 

    • Veterans' advocates believe that between 10 and 20 percent of Iraq veterans, or 150,000 and 300,000 service members have some level of TBI.

 

 

    • 30 percent of soldiers admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center have been diagnosed as having had a TBI.

 

  • The number of people with TBI who are not seen in an emergency department or who receive no care is unknown.

There are three levels of traumatic brain injuries: mild, moderate and severe. Don't let these names fool you. A mild TBI is just as serious as a moderate or severe one. The names refer to loss of consciousness and mental alteration as a result of the trauma. In my case, we think I was unconscious for only about a minute or so, therefore classifying me as "mild". But like I said, don't let the name fool you. The resulting damage can be the same for all three -- a TBI does not discriminate. 

A TBI changes you. Literally and figuratively. My personality is different. My energy levels and sleep patterns are foreign to me. The confused woman in the kitchen staring at the oven is someone I am just now starting to understand. The woman who has to write a Post-it note for every single task on her to-do list is no longer the multi-tasker she once was. The woman who used to type at 100 words per minute with zero mistakes now has to take her time and correct many keystroke errors as she goes because her brain gets confused with letters.

I am finally coming to terms with this "new me." It has been just over a year since I fell on the ice, landing full force on my skull. In the beginning I was angry. I was confused. I was in a lot of pain, both physically and emotionally. People didn't understand. Didn't believe me. Couldn't understand my hidden injuries. I didn't have a strong support system, but what I did have was determination! 

Life with an "invisible" injury or illness can be a real challenge. Since I posted my last blog, "Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury," on The Huffington Post last month, I have made an entirely new circle of friends. I created a group on Facebook, affectionately named "The TBI Tribe." This is a safe place where we can hang out, talk, vent frustrations, share in each other's successes, and more importantly, have a place where we all feel like we fit in. I was craving an environment where others understood my struggles and didn't pass judgement. I have found exactly that in this tribe! 

I want to share with you a little bit about one of my new friends, Jennifer L. White from St. Louis, Missouri:

In July of 2000 Jennifer collapsed in her Atlanta, Georgia apartment. She called 911 and told them she was dying. She did, in fact, die in the ambulance on her way to the hospital. Fortunately medics were able to resuscitate her. Doctors determined that she had had a stroke and performed brain surgery to eradicate the brain bleed. She spent 10 days in the ICU followed by several months in a rehab facility. Overnight she went from the vice president of a large marketing firm, to unemployable and on disability. The massive stroke has left Jennifer with cognitive deficiencies, balance issues, and double vision. She jokes that she can, however, make a killer peanut butter sandwich! It's important to have a good sense of humor when dealing with a TBI. Aside from her impairments, Jennifer looks completely healthy and "normal." A few words from Jennifer:

The brain injury has affected me in a variety of ways. Emotionally, I am fragile but working hard to toughen my spirit.  I am much more introspective (I don't know if this is from the actual brain injury or the fact I now have more time to be introspective). Things are just harder for me than most people.   I have to actually think seriously about where I am stepping. 

I define my life in two ways: before and after the stroke.  It has certainly delivered me a tough blow. I have been advised not to have children. I am scared that I am predisposed to have something else happen to me, and I am sorry that I don't find sweetness in the sweet things in life because I am more bitter than I want to be.  But call me crazy... I am glad to be alive. 

I hope that you will join me this month as I share with you more stories and continue to bring awareness to the world about TBI.

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

Topics: mental, March, Brain Injury, Awareness, head, head injuries, TBI, trauma, health, healthcare, patients

The Benefits Of Horse Play

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, Feb 10, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

By Jodie Diegel, BSN, MBA, RNC, LNCC

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Laura* is severely disabled, but when she spent time with Lunar, her caregivers at Little Angels, a non-profit skilled nursing facility in Elgin, Ill., witnessed something they had never seen. Laura began to move her fingers back and forth. Lunar is not a doctor or a therapist, but a 6-year-old specially trained miniature therapy horse from the Northern Illinois-based non-profit organization Mane in Heaven that I started in 2012. Mane in Heaven specializes in animal-assisted activity and therapy visits. Our horses visit with people with physical, mental and emotional challenges ­— from people with severe disabilities to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer.

Laura’s reaction was no surprise to me. We witness this type of reaction all the time when Lunar — with her chestnut brown coat and blonde eyelashes and her gentle demeanor — or one of her fellow mini-horses meet our clients. I recall another visit between a young man who was blind and disabled and Turnabout, a 3-year-old mini-horse. Turnabout is the only boy in the bunch and has the biggest personality. When the young man put his hands on Turnabout’s face, they obviously made a connection because the man laughed exuberantly again and again. 

It brings us joy to see the light, laughter and hope our minis provide to people experiencing profound illnesses or disabilities — not to mention that these visits can lead to improved physical, mental and emotional well-being. 

I remember when the idea of working with mini-horses came to me. I was surfing the Internet one evening in December 2011 after volunteering with my two therapy dogs, Buffet and Dudley, when an advertisement caught my eye. “Mini Therapy Horses for Sale,” it said. I thought, “I have two big horses, so I know horse behavior, and I’ve done a lot of obedience training with my two therapy dogs. I can train mini-horses to do the same thing that Buffet and Dudley do.” 

But I knew I couldn’t do it alone. Two months later, I had established a volunteer board of directors, including founding board member and friend Dina Morgan, RN, and had acquired three mini-horses — Lunar, Turnabout and 3-year-old Mystery, our smallest horse. In 2013, 2-year-old Jenella joined the group. 

Mane in Heaven volunteers and mini-horses began site visits in June 2013, and since then our volunteers and horses have visited with thousands of people in need. We have relationships with numerous providers and non-profit organizations in the region, including Marklund, a home for infants, children, teens and adults with serious developmental disabilities; Gigi’s Playhouse, which cares for children and adults with Down Syndrome; Wings, which advocates for survivors of domestic violence, as well as homeless women and children; JourneyCare, which specializes in palliative medicine and hospice care; and Rush University Medical Center, a premier hospital located in Chicago. 

A site visit usually lasts up to two hours and involves an exchange of unconditional love between the horses and our clients. People watch, pet, brush, hug and take pictures with the minis. Rather than thinking and talking about themselves and their problems, our clients focus on the animals. When our horses visit a care facility, the residents laugh and interact more, are mentally stimulated by the entertainment and are able to recall personal memories more readily. 

When Corin Garcia, 19, from Palos Hills, Ill., met Lunar at a Mane in Heaven visit at Rush University Medical Center, it changed her whole perspective on her pending treatment. Corin told me it was a day she dreaded more than anything — admission day for “four tedious, boring days of chemotherapy,” she said. But Corin’s attitude changed when her she met Lunar. “I was in an awful mood, yet when two miniature horses walked through the door my mind cleared all its negative thoughts and my heart instantly melted. Being around these beautiful creatures made the worse day turn into the best I have ever had in the hospital.”

Mane in Heaven does not charge for visits; we rely on donations and fundraising, so fundraising is important work for our volunteers. Interest is growing in our services, thanks, in part, to media coverage by CNN, the Associated Press, and local media outlets. Having the support of volunteers helps us to maximize donations, but we hope to find others who believe in our mission and will also support us financially. While our horses are tiny, there are still significant expenses associated with running our organization. One day we’d love to open our own therapy center and acquire more horses, so we can serve more people. 

Running a nonprofit business is challenging while also working full time, but I really never feel like this is work for me. While I may have had the vision for Mane in Heaven, our volunteers have made it a reality. We have a group of amazing and generous volunteers who help special horses help special people. Everyone has challenges in their lives, but whether we are with the minis at training sessions or on visits, we always feel happier and joyful after some “mini love.” We are the privileged ones to be on the other end of the rope.

Source: http://news.nurse.com

Topics: non-profit, mental, emotional, well being, mini horses, volunteers, nursing, health, RN, nurse, health care, medical, cancer, hospice, hospital, treatment, doctor

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